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House NIH Ethics Probe Likely to Expand

June 28, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 26

Testifying before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations last week, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni outlined several proposed changes to the agency's conflict-of-interest policies. His changes include limiting employees' annual compensation from outside activities to 25% of their annual salary as well as limiting the amount of time they are allowed to spend on such activities to 400 hours per year. The hearing was a continuation of an ongoing investigation, likely to expand, of ethics and management at NIH. Subcommittee Chairman Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) noted that the committee has discovered discrepancies between consulting activities reported by NIH and reports of activities submitted by pharmaceutical companies in response to a subcommittee request. These unreported employee activities are now being investigated, and more hearings are expected to follow. Also, the committee has asked the 15 federal agencies within its jurisdiction to disclose all awards, contracts, and other agreements between their employees and outside sources by July 2. The information will be used to ensure the activities uncovered at NIH are not occurring at other agencies and to provide a baseline of general practices.


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